VIOLENT/NON-CONSENSUAL SEX WARNING/DISCLAIMER: It is a story portraying a Conqueror/slave relationship, so it would appear non-consensual at first. As for sexual violence, there are scenes (In parts 3 and 4) which are detailed and graphic, and may not suite some readers.
Other Disclaimers: See Part 1
SPECIAL THANKS : My humble most ardent gratitude to the excellent, most brilliant Beta readers nancyjean and alexandriaruth , whom I can't thank enough.
Comments & Feedback : MOST WELCOMED – The more you write me, the quicker I post.
The next day, soon after sunrise, the Conqueror made her way to the Great Hall, leaving her satisfied albeit sore Queen to soak in a luxuriously long warm bath. She was scheduled to meet with the Princess and later on with Delos, the prosperous merchant of weaponry from Thessaly to negotiate prices.
Meanwhile, Princess Athena was waiting restlessly for the Conqueror, pacing back and forth in the Great Hall, when she heard voices coming from a nearby chamber. Her legs carried her to the chamber from which the voices were originating. When she entered it she saw Germanicus, Lady Lila's youngest son and nephew to her mother the Queen, giving a rose to Antonia, Delos ' daughter, whom she had admired from afar for quite a while.
The indomitable Princess felt angry and jealous and very much entitled. She closed the distance between them with wide strides. She then turned to Germanicus and simply ordered, "Leave us, and in the future you are forbidden from ever approaching Antonia again."
"With all due respect, your Grace, I am of nobility and a free man to do as I wish."
"You are to do as I command," the Princess' voice roared.
Germanicus , not unlike the Princess, felt very much entitled as well, for if he hadn't been, he wouldn't have said the following words to the Princess, "Pardon, your Grace but you have no authority over me . Who are you to give me orders?!"
Princess Athena was fuming, "I am Princess Xena Athena, fathered by the Great Lord Conqueror of the Realm!"
Spoiled young Germanicus was as quick to get angry as he was to forget his humble beginning. Conveniently forgetting that his nobility was bestowed upon him due to his mother's kinship to the Queen , "And mothered by the Lord Conqueror's former body slave!" he shouted back at her, his tone didn't attempt to mitigate the incendiary words.
Antonia stepped back, thinking it best to put some distance between the Princess and Germanicus.
The Princess was flabbergasted. Her entire world as she had known it crumbled. It finally made sense to her. All seemed to fall into place. Everything explained with a few short words, uttered in anger. Her mother had been the Conqueror's body slave. All the silences between them over the years, the Conqueror's treatment of the Queen and the Queen's behavior towards the Conqueror all made perfect sense all of a sudden. The puzzle that was her parents' relationship had been solved at long last. That was why she knew Germanicus wasn't lying. Humiliated and livid, she sent her fist flying towards Germanicus' face and after breaking his insolent nose she grabbed him tightly and wrung his neck, wishing it to snap in her hands like a dried twig.
Lady Lila, who heard muffled shouting as she walked in a nearby corridor, hurried to the chamber to find her son being strangled by the Princess.
"Get your hands off him!" she cried hysterically and tried to force open the Princess' hands from around her son's neck.
"What is the meaning of this!?" the Conqueror's sonorous voice made all present in the chamber freeze all motion.
Abruptly, Lady Lila removed her hands from Princess Athena, who released her hands from Germanicus.
"Your Majesty," they all murmured respectfully and bowed and curtsied before her.
"There's a question pending," the Conqueror reminded them.
"They were fighting over me, Majesty" Antonia was the first to speak.
"Is this true?" the Conqueror directed her question to her heir.
"Yes, Majesty," the Princess replied with her body taut to its full stature.
"You may take your leave, Antonia," the Conqueror said and Antonia nearly trampled over her frock as she scurried to the door and left.
The Conqueror returned her glare to her daughter. "Fighting over a lass?" the Conqueror asked in disbelief, as if such form of behavior should have been beneath her successor.
"I fancy her, Majesty… a great deal, for quite some time now," Athena remained proud.
"She is not worthy of your station, your Grace, and I forbid it," the Conqueror decreed.
Princess Athena thought the Conqueror was being duplicitous not to mention unfair. The next words that came out of mouth stunned the Conqueror.
"Wasn't my mother your body slave, Majesty?"
The Conqueror's hands balled into tight fists that whitened her knuckles. What infuriated the Conqueror, knowing that it hadn't been the Queen who divulged that information, was that her daughter had to learn that truth from the mouth of a stranger rather than her own mouth. So many years had gone by that it almost seemed as if the past had been buried so deeply that it could never come out. No one in the Realm had dared mention it and it all but seemed long forgotten.
"Who told you?" the Conqueror's voice was low and strained.
"Dear Germanicus, just now!" Athena yelled and ran out of the chamber.
The Conqueror thought it best to allow the Princess some time alone to vent and clear her head. She turned to Germanicus, whom all her anger was directed to, and asked, "Is this true? Did you tell her Grace about the Queen's past?"
He lowered his head while his heart shrank in his chest. "It is, your Majesty," he whispered.
"How did you know? Who told you? You were but a child when I married the Queen…"
He remained silent for he didn't wish any harm to befall his mother, Lady Lila.
"Forgive me, your Majesty, but it was I who told him," Lady Lila finally admitted.
"You…" the Conqueror hissed between clenched teeth, "Her own sister…" her eyes narrowed as she glared at the smaller woman. "Why? After all she has given you… after all she has sacrificed for you, why would you shame her like this?"
Lady Lila remained mute and wouldn't meet the Conqueror's reproachful and raging eyes. Inwardly, she knew perfectly well why, only she never took into account that the Conqueror might know why as well. This had been a secret, which she had held very close and hidden in her heart.
"You are jealous of her. You've always been jealous of her. She's prettier than you, she's wiser than you, she's stronger than you, and her heart is kinder than yours. In spite of her past, she managed to climb up as high as becoming Queen of the Realm and now you owe her not just your life but your station as well… you owe all to your younger sister and you resent her for it," the astute Conqueror said. "Better if you'd shown some semblance of gratitude and kept your mouth shut, Madame!"
Lady Lila's eyes widened into almost perfectly rounded orbs, she felt as though she was stripped naked and was now exposed for all to see.
"Shame on you! Her Majesty will forgive you for that is her nature, but I won't," the Conqueror moved to stand closer to them, imposing on them, making both Lady Lila and young Germanicus cringe where they stood. Then she went on to say , "If it hadn't been for your kinship to the Queen, both you and your son would have been a head shorter by now."
Meanwhile, in the Imperial bath-chamber, the Queen was exiting the steamy scented water when suddenly the door swung open. At first the Queen thought it was her Lord, for who else would dare barge into the Imperial bath.
But it was Athena that stood at the doorway and her eyes were brazenly and unapologetically surveying her mother's figure. She saw the welts on her backside and thighs, the leather collar with the Conqueror's crest around it, and lastly the Conqueror's insignia branded over her mother's shoulder blade.
"You were her body slave." It wasn't a question but a charge. Seeing the unmistakable symbol around her mother's thigh provided ample confirmation beyond any doubt.
"Athena…" sighed the Queen and grabbed a towel to conceal her naked body. There was no point, she realized, in denying it.
"Since when?" Athena demanded to know, as if learning all the particular details there were to know about them could make any difference.
"I entered my Lord's service when I was nearly eighteen years of age," the Queen replied. If she hadn't been taken so completely by surprise, she would have told her daughter that it was none of her concern.
"So I'm the daughter of a body slave…" Athena muttered as if just realizing it.
The Queen held her head up high. She refused to feel any shame. "You are my Lord's daughter and mine."
Princess Athena scoffed and disdain seemed to pour out of her like rivers.
"All these years, I've never seen you at ease in your Lord's presence," Athena uttered the words 'Your Lord' like they were an insult. "To this day you are always tense and alert around her, always in waiting for her every command, always conceding your will to hers, always ready to serve her, ever groveling before her . I have never heard you calling her by name and I have never seen her show you even the smallest gesture of kindness." Athena's words came shooting out of her mouth like poisoned arrows.
The Queen remained silent.
"Even now," Athena mercilessly continued, "as her Queen, she still demands that you wear a slave's collar and she takes her whip to you still. The Conqueror might have bestowed upon you supreme title, but you're nothing but a slave to her yet."
The innocuous words hit their target . Hearing them coming out of her own daughter's mouth was nearly too much for the Queen to bear.
"After all these years, your Lord still owns you. She owns you now as the day she bought and paid for you on the slavers block. Have you no dignity, no self-respect?"
The majestic Queen looked directly into her daughter's eyes, ensnaring her daughter's gaze and firmly holding it, unwavering.
It made Athena suddenly realize that perchance her mother wasn't the weakling she had always thought her to be, but much stronger than she ever would have guessed.
"Daughter, you have much to learn about dignity," Queen Gabrielle said then paused before she went on to say, "If my Lord had deemed that I should remain her body slave for the rest of my life, I would have been happy and content more than anything and not thought any less of myself for it. I'd rather be my Lord's slave than anyone else's wife or Queen. I shall admire and adore my Lord with my dying breath."
At that moment the young Princess believed she had never witnessed a more miserable and pathetic creature than her mother, who seemed to adore her Lord, who had treated her, so she believed, worse than any human being would treat a dog.
Just when she opened her mouth to give voice to her thoughts, and say something hurtful to her mother, from the corner of her eyes, Princess Athena saw a tall figure rushing towards her, like something unnatural, inhuman. Rooted in her place by profound shock and fear, she saw the Conqueror closing the gap between them, lunging at her like a raptor, her arm raised in the air. Next she felt the Conqueror strike her hard with the back of her hand, knocking her to the ground and her head being slammed against the stone wall with the awesome force of the blow. For a moment she thought her jaw had popped out of its place and her skull had been split open. With tears in her eyes, she rubbed the place that had been in contact with the Conqueror's hand to sooth the pulsating pain. She spitted out the blood from her aching mouth and it felt as though her jaw's muscles had been contorted.
"Hold your row!" The Conqueror's voice bellowed. She squatted next to Athena, as the latter instinctively shrank back and raised her hands to defend herself, all the while knowing full well there was no defense against the force that was the Lord Conqueror.
The harsh Ruler grabbed Athena by the neck with her iron strong grip and raised her other arm in the air, preparing to steadfastly land a second strike, when the Conqueror felt a gentle hand touching her shoulder.
"Please, my Lord, will you not come back to bed?" It was the Queen's soft imploring voice that halted her motion dead in its tracks.
The Conqueror rose to her feet, gently wrapped her arms around her Queen and embraced her passionately for a few long moments, completely ignoring her injured bleeding daughter on the ground.
"Go wait for me in our bedchamber and I will see you anon," the Conqueror whispered tenderly in her ear.
The Princess was captivated and awestruck by the gentle and intimate exchange between them.
"Thank you, my gracious Lord," the Queen said and retired to the Imperial bedchamber.
The Conqueror returned her attention back to her daughter still on the ground.
"It wasn't my honor I was defending, but my Queen's honor, you sniveling whelp – You know nothing about us and nothing about what is shared between us. You can't even begin to comprehend, but I give allowance to your youth and impulsiveness and I don't wish to further exacerbate my Queen's grief."
Princess Athena listened to the Conqueror's words, but her expression remained one of spitefulness, spoiled defiance and disbelief.
Though the Conqueror's treatment of her over the years had been firm, if not austere, she had never raised her hand to her. The Princess' pride was wounded. She wanted to convey to the Conqueror that she felt insulted and wronged.
But the Conqueror disregarded what she perceived as her daughter's self-absorbed indignations. "My hold over her is nothing compared to the hold she has over me. I would give her the Realm in a heartbeat if she so asked and not given it a second thought."
The Conqueror stepped away from Athena, who couldn't believe her own ears.
The sole Lord of the Realm needed a respite to gather her thoughts and carefully plan the next words she was going to say to her daughter.
"You are young, rash and inexperienced. The only power you hold has been handed to you on a silver platter by me. You have yet to truly earn it. You have no real concept of what it takes to truly rule an empire. I have no inclination of explaining myself to you or explaining the nature of the bond your mother and I share, but out of respect to her Majesty the Queen, I shall."
The Conqueror drew a deep breath and went on to say, "I love her with all my heart. I have loved her from the first moment I caught sight of her, but I had to try and kill that great love that poured life, light and happiness into me. I tried to kill it by committing ghastly acts against her I'm ashamed to even contemplate now. I kept it buried inside me for so many years in the hopes that, eventually, it would one day shrivel, wither and die and release me from its grave and heavy burden."
Then something it the Conqueror's voice became rigid and dense, " Rulers cannot love. No one can know that a Ruler bears or is even capable of bearing such great and perfect love. It weakens you in the eyes of your subjects and enemies, for it gives power over you to the one to whom you bear this love. Love is like fresh blood on the battlefield, which attracts wolves, and so you must never breathe a word of the extraordinary love I bear my Queen to a soul."
The Conqueror turned and walked over to the chamber door leading to the Imperial bedchamber. When she placed her hand over the cold metal of the door handle, she turned back to face her bewildered daughter and landed upon her this daunting lesson. "You must make stone of your heart, daughter, for love - is the greatest price you would ever have to pay in order to rule."
Athena could barely speak. She cleared her throat then simply claimed, "You love and you rule."
The Conqueror's countenance softened, "I was fortunate enough to fall in love with a woman I could trust my life with. And she did, you know… she saved my life once at the cost of her freedom. For a slave, there is no greater sacrifice. If I could grant you anything by merely wishing it, I would have wished that the woman you marry will be one tenth of the woman my Queen is."
Still not fully adjusted to the new reality, Athena had to ask, "Does she know?"
"She is the only one that knows. She first learnt of it soon after your admission into the Roman academy," the Conqueror replied.
"That's less than half the years your Majesty has been with her," Athena pointed out and it almost sounded like an accusation.
"That is correct," the Conqueror confirmed, not entirely unrepentantly.
"Does she feel the same?"
"You know how tender, forgiving and loving her heart is… What do you think? Let me tell you something about her tremendous love for me… It is better than winning a hundred battles; it is more exhilarating than having the world bend to your will. It is more enriching than having all the riches in the world and it is more satisfying than having knowledge of a thousand women. Believe me, I am in the position to know."
A few quiet moments passed before the Conqueror turned to leave again.
"Oh, and one last thing… if I ever catch you raising your voice to her Majesty again or speaking to her Majesty in any way other than perfect respect…"
The Conqueror didn't need to finish her sentence. Athena, whose world turned upside down that morning, knew full well that if she hadn't been the Queen's daughter as well, the Conqueror wouldn't have hesitated to put an end to her life.
In the Imperial bedchamber, the Conqueror took her Queen by the hand and led her to the stony balcony overseeing Corinth 's seaport.
“How much of what was exchanged between Athena and me did you hear, my Lord?” the Queen asked, fully dressed in her regal dress.
“Nearly all of it, my Lady,” the Conqueror replied. It occurred to her then that she had never apologized to her beloved for the hurtful things she had said to her when her beloved had been her slave. Gabrielle never asked it of her, she realized as well, and she suspected she knew why. Her beloved Queen afforded her, her pride and loved her for it.
As if she could read her Lord's mind, the Queen smiled a mysterious smile. "Is the matter between us and our daughter resolved, my Lord?" she asked .
"It is, my Lady," the Conqueror replied.
"May I ask what did you tell her?"
The Conqueror took off her cloak and covered Gabrielle's shivering shoulders, shielding her from the morning light chill.
"The truth, my love… that you are the Conqueror of the Realm," the Conqueror smiled.
The Queen knelt down at her Lord's feet and kissed the seal ring on her finger.
The Conqueror knelt as well and wrapped her encompassing arms around her beloved Queen. As she caressed Gabrielle's cheek with hers, she felt moisture against her skin and she realized her beloved was crying.
Although she knew these were tears of joy, she softly whispered "No tears, my love. Not today," as she gently rocked the Queen in her arms. "Don't you know what day it is, today?" The Conqueror asked.
"My Lord…" the Queen sighed, "I thought you have forgotten."
The Conqueror chuckled, "How could I forget one of the happiest days of my life? How could I forget the day you became my wife and Queen?"
As she felt her beloved's body relax against hers the Conqueror closed her eyes and conjured the memory of Gabrielle boarding the docking ship in her wedding frock.
"When I first caught a sight of you dressed in white, ready and willing to be my wife…I thought I had never seen a more beautiful and more humbling sight in all my life."
The Queen pressed her face against her Lord's neck, and enjoyed the feeling of her Lord's hard collarbone and the soft vibrations of her speech against her cheek .
"Everything seemed so unreal to me, that day," the Queen recalled. "The ceremony was so very formal. It all happened so quickly…from slave to Queen, from concubine to legitimate wife…indignant haughty strangers waiting for me to err." and then the Queen paused and smiled fondly, "And then you tied my shoelace."
"It was an excuse to kneel before you and force our subjects to kneel before you, as well," the Conqueror explained what her wife had already known.
"I knew that, my Lord, and your grand gesture nearly made me weep," the Queen remembered warmheartedly and pushed herself closer against her Lord. "What scared and troubled me most was your motivation for marrying me, my Lord, for I never wanted high station, wealth or power. All I ever desired was your love and affection, and to be bound to you, my Lord."
The Conqueror felt she owed an explanation to her wife, "I chose you over Princess Lao-Ling because it was you I wanted, you I loved. Tis true that Princess Lao-Ling proposal and the great matter of my succession expedited the issue of marriage, but I wouldn't have married or sired children with anyone other than you. Good thing that the Realm's nobility tried to push me into marrying the Princess, for they gave me a splendid excuse to marry you under the pretext of my will's supremacy."
"Why did you think I accepted your proposal, my Lord?" the Queen asked as her fingertips traced a bulging vein on her Lord's forearm.
"I never thought it was for want of wealth or power…not even your freedom. I believed you accepted my proposal of marriage because you thought it would please me, and because of your obedience to me. I never imagined you could love me," the Conqueror answered. She released her arms from around her wife, and helped her to her feet.
"Happy anniversary, my Lord." The Queen eyes gleamed as she anchored her hand at the back of Conqueror's head and prompted her to lean down for a passionate all-consuming kiss.
"I am taking you to Thira , today. We shall leave as soon as your ladies in waiting finish packing your traveling chest," the Conqueror said and watched her Queen's face light up brighter than the morning sun.
Before the Royal couple left, they entered Princess Athena's chambers to bid her farewell. The Conqueror appointed her regent in their absence. Athena, knowing what she knew now about the parents who conceived and raised her, was overwhelmed with strong emotions towards her parents, and so before the Conqueror and the Queen turned to leave, she rushed towards them with open arms and they all embraced together.
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